Night on the Border, or: The Crystallurgist

  • It was a frosty night, as winter nights go in Falkreath Hold — which is to say, it was pretty godsdamn cold. But cold was expected. Cold could be dealt with.

    Corin stood on the great stone wall overlooking the border between Skyrim and Cyrodiil. He’d been posted here for four months now. Not at all what he’d had in mind when he’d enlisted with the Imperial Legion back in High Rock. The Legion had come through town, seeking able-bodied men to aid in their efforts to claim Skyrim. At the time, Corin had neither known nor cared for the politics, but as an eager youth looking for adventure this was a clear opportunity. And he had taken it.

    The training had been tougher than he had expected, and a few too many struggles had led to his squad commander recommending him for border patrol.

    “Kid, you’ve got that look in yer eye again. Not what you signed up fer, eh?” A voice woke Corin from his reverie.

    “What?” he said. “Oh, sorry Jak. No, it’s not that, I was just wondering what my old squad was up to.”

    “That lot don’t concern you no more, lad,” said Jak. Jaksin was the senior of the three guards at Corin’s station. Jak Quicktongue he was known as. Corin didn’t know where he’d earned the nickname, or why. He wasn’t sure he wanted to. Jak was a gruff fellow, but he generally meant well, and he had some good stories. “Bram have anything to report?”

    “Nothing, as usual,” said Corin. “A father and his son came through around supper, and a merchant an hour after that. No one else, not that he told me at least.”

    This was how it had been these four months. A steady trickle of travelers coming through, with not a single red flag raised. And according to Jak, that’s how it had been for the past three years.

    But tomorrow would be special: Tomorrow morning, a small unit of Legionnaires would be coming through. Word had come that morning. Something about a “major victory” over the Stormcloaks. The messenger had had no further information — “in the interest of protecting valuable information”. That’s what he had said at least. And he had delivered the message on behalf of General Tullius himself!

    Corin would technically be off duty at the time, and would be expected to be asleep. But like hell if he was going to miss out on the only interesting action in four months of this endless boredom.

    “Alright lad, I’m gonna turn in.” Jak said. “Gotta be on form for the general tomorrow, eh?” He followed his last sentence with a hearty swig from his mead flask, winked, and walked down the stone steps to the guard shack.


    * * *


    Several hours had passed since Jak had left Corin on the wall, and it was now deep into the night, and colder even than it had been earlier that evening. Colder than Corin cold remember it being in weeks. A chill wind rustled around him, and he shivered involuntarily, drawing his cloak tight around his neck.

    He heard the door to the shack open behind him, and turned to see Bram stumble out. Of the three guards, Bram talked the least and drunk the most. Apparently tonight was no exception, Corin noted, as the big man ambled to the nearest tree and began to relieve himself.

    Suddenly, the tree erupted in a burst of flame. For a moment, the drunken Bram was rooted to the spot, then the flames seemed to pulsate outward, and he took a clumsy step back. Or at least, he tried to, but his body froze halfway through the motion, and he collapsed to the ground, motionless, mid-piss. Corin looked around in alarm, trying to find the source of the fire, to no avail. His senses caught up with him, and he began to run forward to pull Bram from the rapidly growing flames, which were threatening to envelop the unconscious man’s boots at any second.

    As he hurried forward, Corin was suddenly struck with the curious sensation of running into a solid stone wall, despite nothing but air before him. He fell to the ground, dazed. Behind him, he heard a voice.

    “Be still.” The voice was clear and smooth, and somehow detached. Corin had never heard anything like it. He attempted to turn to see who had spoken, but found that he could not budge even an inch. In front of him, Bram’s right boot seemed to have caught fire. The man remained motionless.

    Out of the side of his vision, a figure stepped into view, walking purposefully toward the guard shack. Corin was helpless to stop the man from entering the shack, where Jak lay sleeping. He couldn’t even cry out to warn the man. It was as if the voice had been pulled from his throat.

    From the corner of his eye, he observed a hulking figure enter the shack. He was only inside for the span of a few heartbeats before he emerged from the stone building. The figure was too far away and to the side for Corin to make out much, but he could notice two things: First, the man (if that’s what it was) was taller than anyone Corin had ever met. At least seven feet. And second — he was glowing. Talos above, the bastard was glowing!

    Suddenly, the figure turned toward Corin, and purposefully strode toward the immobile youth. For the first time, Corin could properly observe the mysterious figure. It was indeed a man — more specifically, he was a High Elf. And the glowing was coming from the glass armor with which he was adorned. The small crystals in his armor were alight with a shining bluish glow. Corin had never seen anything like it.

    The High Elf knelt before Corin, and put a finger to the young Breton’s temple. Corin saw one of the crystals in the elf’s armor flicker slightly, and felt a rush of energy pour into his throat.

    “I need you to speak,” said the High Elf in that same clear, detached voice. “Tell me, is it true that you are expecting a Legion convoy to come through this gate?”

    “Wh- what?”

    “Tullius is coming through here, is he not? In a matter of hours, unless I’m mistaken. And he’ll be bringing a little party with him?”

    “I- I’m not telling you shit! What did you do in the shack?” Corin had a feeling he already knew the answer.

    “I fear I had to kill your associate. It was nothing personal, you understand. But I have business with Tullius, and regrettably, your friend would have gotten in the way. Besides, he had something I needed.” As he said this, the High Elf tapped a particularly large crystal in the chestpiece of his armor, which seemed to be glowing more brightly than the others.

    Corin had no idea what that was supposed to mean, but those words had barely registered with him anyway. By now, Bram’s motionless body had fully caught fire, and the sickly sweet smell of roasting flesh began to fill the air.

    “Put that out! Please, he didn’t do anything to you,” Corin said.

    “No. He did not,” the High Elf agreed. Yet he made no motion to put out the fire. Instead, he closed his eyes, as if thinking particularly hard, and cocked his head to the side. For the second time Corin noticed a crystal flickering on his armor. After a moment, the High Elf looked up. “Yes, I see now. They will indeed be coming this way.”

    “Are you going to kill me?” Corin said.

    “That remains to be seen.”

    There was silence, and Corin felt two primal urges waging battle within him: to attack this bastard and avenge his fallen comrades, or to weep in mingled sorrow, horror, and disgust at the burning body of his comrade beside the tree. It seemed like several minutes passed as these feelings warred within him.

    “I know what you are thinking.” The High Elf eventually said. “Even if I were to lift the paralyzing spell, it would be most unwise of you to attempt to harm me. I know how you must feel, but understand… I am not your enemy.” As he said this last bit, a crystal flickered yet again, and Corin felt an overwhelming wave of comfort pass over him. How could he have doubted the man before him? This was a pure, righteous soul. Corin would follow this man to the ends of the earth.

    The young man was far too inexperienced to recognize the effects of the powerful pacify spell for what it was.

    Bram’s body was now blackening in places, and it was clear that the last vestiges of life were rapidly fleeing from him. The High Elf stood and walked over to the roasting corpse. He passed his hands over the body, and Corin saw yet another strange sight: A bluish glow seemed to be flowing from Bram’s body, and the High Elf was somehow drawing it into himself. As he did so, several of the crystals on his armor began to glow more brightly than ever.

    When the transfer of blue light subsided, the High Elf sat on the nearby stone steps and closed his eyes again.

    Several more minutes passed in silence, before Corin surprised himself again by asking one more question.

    “Who are you?”

    For the first time that night, a trace of a smile passed over the High Elf’s pale lips.

    “My name is of no consequence. But you may call me… The Crystallurgist.”

    “What do you want with General Tullius?”

    “That’s enough questions, I think.” Said the Crystallurgist.

    There were three things Corin noticed then: first, yet another flickering crystal on the High Elf’s armor. Second, the fire that had taken Bram had finally begun to subside, leaving a charred, smoldering mass in its wake. And third, the faint traces of red on the horizon.

    Sunrise had begun. Corin’s vision suddenly began to blur, and his head felt like it was full of sand. As he rapidly drifted off, his was final thought was that Tullius would arrive in a matter of hours. And the Crystallurgist would be waiting. What for, Corin had no idea.

    Before he had a chance to ponder, Corin slipped peacefully into the warm and waiting embrace of unconsciousness.


  • Teccam
    Teccam   ·  June 12, 2014
    I've though about writing more, but I don't have any specific story in mind. This was originally meant to be a one-off to introduce the character, but I did enjoy writing it, and it was nice hearing from people who liked it. More stories aren't out of the...  more
  • Paws
    Paws   ·  June 12, 2014
    This is cool, Tex, any more on the way? I would like to find out what happens to Corin and The Crystallurgist next.
  • Noah B
    Noah B   ·  November 7, 2013
    Would love to see this story continued as you play the Crystallurgist. Will Corin become a Crystallurgist?
  • Grubbi
    Grubbi   ·  November 7, 2013
    Wow teccam nice job! I definitely will give this build a go when it comes out!
  • Teccam
    Teccam   ·  November 5, 2013
    Thanks to all who have liked and/or commented. I don't currently have any concepts for a followup to this little story, but once I publish the eponymous build, I will give it some thought.
    It would be nice to give a glimpse into the Crystallurgist's...  more
  • Raid
    Raid   ·  November 5, 2013
    Really good story Teccam! Is this just gonna be a one off, or are there going to be a few more chapters on this Crystallurgist? He sounds like a pretty nasty fellow, burning up guys without a second thought. He doesn't even seem glad or anything, not chao...  more
  • Vazgen
    Vazgen   ·  November 5, 2013
    You certainly interested me with this! Absorbing souls in the armor, using them to manipulate magicka... He knows Destruction, Alteration and Illusion from what I gathered  What I'm puzzled with is how Corin is connected to Crystallurgist build if he is t...  more